Can I be brutally honest here? This is freaking hard. Unbelievably so at times, for example, today.

I love my children. I wanted to be a mother from the time I first realized that it was an option. I remember my mother being pregnant with my sister when I was five years old and being thrilled because she told me that one day, I could have a baby in my belly too. I miscarried my first pregnancy, twins, and remember the devastation, the absolute utter horror at death of my babies, and the prospect that I might never be able to carry a pregnancy to term. I find enormous satisfaction in being a mother, it’s a huge part of the way I define myself. I feel a little bit lost when my kids aren’t near me, and freely acknowlege that I legitimately LIKE spending time with them – I’ve got great kids. They’re smart and funny and I can’t imagine my life without them. I feel a little sorry for all the other parents who don’t have my kids, because mine really are amazing.

But full time parenting is so hard some days. When you’ve been up all night because one had a nightmare and the other one just isn’t in the mood to sleep, when you’ve been trapped inside for days on end because it’s so frigid cold outside, when you’re the only adult all the time and the housework bubbles up around you – and you can’t get the kids to stop fighting long enough for you to take a much needed shower. When the dishes are spilling over the sink (and you did two loads of dishes yesterday) and you’ve got construction guys and dragon castle components scattered with American Girl hair accessories and doll clothes tossed gleefully all over the living room… and your daughter is raging because webkinz won’t let her do what she wants and your three year old is screaming, just screaming, like it’s his new hobby… all I could think was that this is so damn hard. I sat in Jessie’s room, trying to pick up all the tiny little clips for Rebecca Rubin before they got lost, and cried right along with Sam, as he stood in front of me, jumping up and down, begging me to pick him up (which is becoming increasingly harder as I get bigger) and nurse him. I ended up sitting on the floor, sobbing, and stopped only because when I cry too hard, I inevitably throw up because of the pregnancy. I’m so worn out and tired and some days I wonder if I’m really strong enough to do this.

I wouldn’t trade these years for anything. I know that the years when my babies are little are fleeting, and have already gone by so fast… I’ll never be able to pick Jess up and carry her around the house anymore – she’s too big. The number of times when I’ll be able instantly soothe whatever is bothering Sam just by being beside him is finite. I never thought I’d be able to be a stay at home mom, I thought, of course, my kids would be in daycare, how could I afford to not work? I never dreamed I’d be as lucky as I am. I’m pregnant with my third child, and watching one of the people I love most in the world struggle with infertility – I’m so incredibly aware of how blessed I am. But this is hard. There are days when a part of me envies my husband, who gets dressed, showers whenever he wants and goes to work all day with grown ups who don’t ask for drinks or to get a diaper change, who don’t yell at him for no real reason. Where nobody has to be bathed, where dishes don’t need to be done, where the floor is always vacuumed and the trash is always emptied.

I love my children. My amazing girl child, with her passions and her furies, her creativities, her kindness and her beauty. My beautiful boy, big grey/brown eyes and so much love and sweetness all bundled up in this little package of maleness. My tiny baby girl, who’s becoming bigger and more a part of my life every day. And I wouldn’t trade my life for anything.

But I would really appreciate a day off.

I really like having Jess at home. Which makes me think, more and more, that I would have loved homeschooling. I know all the reasons that I send her to school – because I do believe that our goal as parents is to teach them to be adults, to give them opportunities to learn and grow, and she gets exposure to different people and ways of doing things, a level of independence that she wouldn’t get at home with me. She loves first grade, is excelling there, but… but, but, but (as Sam would say) – I like having her home. She asked to do some work in her workbooks the other day, and I thought to myself that I could so easily be homeschooling her. The two kids still squabble, but it doesn’t seem as though they do it as much as they do during the week. I don’t have to haul her out of bed, struggle and fight to get her dressed and ready, pack her lunch (that she won’t eat) and send her out into the freezing cold. She’s spent the past four days in her pajamas, staying up until nine and then going right to sleep, sleeping until after 8:30 most days (which is just her preferred schedule – she isn’t ready for bed at eight and fights it and then has to be dragged out of bed kicking and screaming at seven to get ready for school).

In other news – I think the baby’s kicks are strong enough that you could feel it on the outside. It’s hard for me to tell, because I can obviously feel it on the inside and may be just fooling myself. But she’s moving all the time now, and I love it.

I love January. I just do – I hate the weather, but it’s the month of birthdays in my world, and it’s been my favorite month since I was a little girl. Although, now that I think of it, neither of my children, neither of my stepdaughters, nor my husband have January birthdays. But when I was little – EVERYONE had a January birthday. My dad’s is the 5th, my brother Scott is the 12th, my baby cousin Lea is the 19th, my brother Eric is the 21, my cousin AP is the 22, (my niece Alyssa is the 22nd as well), my mother’s is the 24th and mine is the 25th. I loved being last, and having all month of celebrating everyone’s else to anticipate mine. And I really wanted Jessie to be born on the 26th – not only because at that point – I was so tired of being pregnant but because that would have been so cool, my mother, myself and then my daughter all one day after another. I always loved my birthday – and despite the fact that I’ll be 36 this year – it’s still just as exciting to me. I feel like it’s the one day of the year that you really take stock in everything, celebrate all that you have, all that you are, and get to have cake. How could it get any better?

That being said, Jess didn’t come along until February 7, but I still include her in with all the festitivies. I’m just a happy girl this month.

I read a really good book this weekend – can’t put my hands on it right now to tell you the title or author – but it was all about the orgins of Christmas and what the different traditions were about. Christmas has been a big topic for me over the past couple of years, and it was really interesting to read the historical data behind it. It echoed conclusions that I had come to, and made me feel a lot better about celebrating it as a Jewish convert. It was written by a Christian, and talked a lot about how mid-winter celebrations existed long before the birth of Christ, and that the bible only mentions the nativity twice. It certainly has enormous meaning to Christians, but it’s okay that it has meaning for me as well, because Christmas is so much more than just a religious holiday. It’s snowballed on top of mid-winter traditions, been re-created a whole bunch of different times and in different ways, from Charles Dickens and Queen Victoria to the poet who wrote the Night before Christmas and the invention of Santa Claus. Did you know, in Japan, a majorly not Christian country, Christmas is widely celebrated? Just because it’s fun and meaningful and exciting to have a big ole celebration in the dead of winter.

All that being said… I’m happy that it’s over. I took the tree down today, and am pausing in the middle of vacuuming up all the pine needles to reflect briefly on this past holiday season and what I liked most and would like to re-do, and what I think I’d rather skip next year. I really liked getting a smaller tree, and putting less emphasis on gifts. My kids didn’t get a lot of presents under the tree – they both got one nice gift and a stocking full of odds and ends – and were perfectly happy with that. I have to remember that for next year. It’s not about quantity at Christmas. Also I need to stock a LOT more candy canes. I loved staying at home and going to my mother’s house later on in the day – it was a lot easier and less hectic on everyone. There’s so much potential to stress out over the holidays – and it’s not necessary. I made a concerted effort this year to not go down that road, and for the most part it worked.

In other news – can you believe that I’m going to be 24 weeks pregnant next week? That shocks me – it’s more than half over, and while part of me can’t wait to hold this tiny baby, part of me wants to slow time down – it’s going by SO fast. Sam is still nursing every now and again – he asks a LOT, but it’s more just habit than anything else. He’s completely stopped doing it first thing in the morning, falls asleep most nights without it and with the exception of killer tantrums or if I REALLY need him to nap, he doesn’t nurse at all during the day. We’re not all the way weaned yet, but close enough so that I can pretend 🙂

This was a really nice year for holidays. We switched up tradition, my cousin Becky and I had been celebrating Christmas Eve together for the past fourteen years, first with an Open House at our apartment that we shared for eight years, and then at her house after that. This year, we decided to get a group together and go out for chinese food. And it was wonderful, we’ll definitely do that again next year. Sam fell asleep on the way home, and Jess was still rocking and rolling when we got home. She and Marc wrote out her note to Santa (asking for a Zsu Zhu (??) pet at the last minute and “the one, the only, the beautiful and exquisite Rebecca Rubin) and left him cupcakes, candy canes, a glass of milk and of course, eight carrots for the reindeer.

She woke up bright and early, and was so excited. Marc wanted to wait until Sam woke up, but I wasn’t going to wake him early (without napping, this kid needs all the sleep he can get), so he and I watched Jess open her gifts (she got Rebecca Rubin and a new bedding set) first. She was beyond thrilled, it was wonderful… I took a whole bunch of pictures of her. When Sam woke up, he was grumpy. Slightly mollified by the presents, but still screamed in horror when I tried to take pictures of him. (When he’s thirty and thinks that I loved Jessie best because there are thousands of pictures of her smiling and only a few of him – I’m going to remind him of how many times he’d snarl “NO PICTURES” at me). We got Sam a big dragon castle thing, with guys to go with it. He’s in heaven…

We spent the morning at home, and headed down to my mother’s house around noontime. Jessie immediately disappeared with my niece Bella (who also got an American Girl doll), and poor Sam and I came into the living room. I say poor Sam because he just really doesn’t like attention – and my grandfather and his wife were in the living room, along with my mother. They were all cooing over him (because he’s cute and little and that’s what you do with cute little kids) and trying to convince him to open his gift. He refused for the longest time, and then finally opened it. It was a Toy Story thing, some sort of house thing that you could open with figurines. He wouldn’t let me open the box though, kept saying he just wanted to “wook” at it. Everyone kept trying to convince him to open the box, and he just got more and more upset. Eventually, he slid over to me and said very softly “Mommy, I wish nobody was here.” I asked if he wanted to take it in the kitchen and open his gift where nobody could see him, and he nodded happily. He played in there for a while and was much better.

We stayed for the rest of the day, my sister came over, my cousin Beck and her husband and mother, an uncle, some more cousins, my brother and his wife and kids… it was nice. And the longer we were there, the more relaxed and happy Sam got. We just have to go to a party and plan on staying for several hours before Sam will stop snarling at people.

My grandfather was admitted to the hospital Christmas night. He’s got an infection and they kept him overnight again last night. I’m hoping that he’ll get released today…

We’re having some quiet time this weekend, the weather is lousy, cold, icy and rainy. The kids have been busy playing with their new toys – I’m glad they didn’t overloaded with gifts this year, because the things they got, they really are enjoying. I’m ill amused with Rebecca Rubin’s hair – especially because Jess adores taking the brush that came with her and just ripping thru it. I’ve done my best to teach her to go slowly, and try not to brush it all that often – but she’s still six, and it’s just WAY too much fun to brush her hair. There’s not a doubt in my mind that this doll is going to need a new head before too long, do they do that?

Hot tea might be the trick… I started to crash, exhaustion-wise, mid afternoon again. This time, instead of just suffering and trudging to bed at seven (since Marc won’t be home until after nine tonight), I went for a hot cup of decaf tea. And while I don’t feel up to running a marathon, I’m at least coherent and functional.

No more afternoon nap for Sam. Unfortunate casualty of weaning – he hasn’t really figured out how to fall asleep without it yet. I’ve never just “put him down for a nap.” He always nursed to sleep for that one. He’s pretty good about going to bed, just crawling up with Marc, but occasionally me, and falling asleep when he’s tired – but naptime? Forget it. If he’s not nursing, he’s not napping. And he’s most assuredly not nursing anymore. He asked a couple of times last night in his sleep, and I’d let him attempt, and then cut him off after a minute or two. And he didn’t ask this morning or at all during the day. He’s weaned. He just is, and I’m thrilled. There’s a little wistfulness, my baby boy took a pretty major step out of babyhood, but mostly, I’m just psyched about it.

But I could really use an afternoon nap at this point in the pregnancy ;-).

In other news – all is well with the girl child. She’s been very busy with her new art kit, making birthday cards for her grandmother, and Merry Christmas cards for her teacher. Tomorrow is the last day of school before vacation and she’s thrilled about it. She’s so smart and so pretty – and growing up so fast… it’s amazing to me that I’ve got an almost seven year old and am working on having another tiny baby girl. I wonder what they’ll be like, how they’ll be different from each other, how they’ll be the same. I mostly just can’t wait to see all three of my kids together. You know that feeling you get when your kids are together? That sense of just… rightness, for lack of a better word. Lately, when I look at Jess and Sam, it feels like my baby girl is missing. She’s already such a big part of the family and not even due for another eighteen weeks (it’s not like I’m counting or anything)…

Sam doesn’t throw the temper tantrums that Jess does… he’s a much more even tempered sort of child. But when he does… wow. And although I was bragging earlier about how well weaning went – being able to nurse him down from a tantrum was so amazingly useful. I really missed being able to do that today.

The child was grubby. He just was – he needed a bath. He hates baths. For whatever reason – both my kids hate the tub. Jess used to scream so hard about a bath when she was his age, she literally would break out in hives. So when he said he wanted one, I enthusiastically filled the tub, collected the toys and popped him in there. After about ten minutes, he announced he was ready to get out. But he was grubby – his hair needed to be washed, his body needed to be washed, and I couldn’t let him get out without washing him.

It was ugly – screaming, yelling, trying to climb out – things were thrown across the bathroom, but his hair was washed, his body had soap applied and rinsed – and I pulled him out. At which point he started screaming – jumping up and down, screaming at the top of his lungs. And it went on and on and on. He begged to nurse, I let him try, but the milk is gone, and it’s so painful for me, sucking on dry super sensitive pregnant breasts, I couldn’t bear it. It didn’t do much more than just let him catch his breath for another bout of screaming. And jumping, and kicking and sobbing.

I was pretty tired before I started, but now am exhausted. He finally calmed down, after I paced around the apartment, holding his naked body up high over my stomach and letting him cry on my shoulder. He picked out his favorite jammies and I managed to distract him with an old cartoon called Fangface. He liked the name, and as far as I can tell, it’s an odd version of Scooby Do. Actually, I just leaned back to glance at him in the living room, and the poor kid is sound asleep on the chair. He’s so cute I could cry. This is why we don’t kill them – because just when they’ve pushed us to the point where we’re about to completely lose our minds, they do something so sweet or adorable, like fall asleep in the chair, all snuggled up with his butt in the air like he’s a baby.

I so wish I could go to bed too.

I might be jumping the gun a little bit – but think I can safely say that we’re almost entirely done nursing. YAY! I’m so proud of going for as long as I have (he’s almost three and a half) and so thrilled that we did it peacefully and on terms that we can both live with. He’s falling asleep more and more without it, nursing for just a minute or two when he does nurse, not asking for it first thing in the morning, skipping the afternoon nap.

I did it with no family support, and with a lot of disapproval and outright hostility towards it. I did it even when it hurt tremendously, I’ve nursed in front of rabbis, doctors, on a train, in museums, in a sling while shopping, in food courts, in the park, etc. I nursed for as long as he wanted to – and I’m super proud of that. I didn’t night wean, I let him outgrow the need on his own, and it actually worked – he’s a great sleeper. I’m so happy. I actually did a little dance last night when he dozed off in the chair instead of crawling up to nurse. I honestly can’t remember the last time he asked to nurse, I’ve offered a few times when I KNOW he needed a nap and it was a quick way to ensure he got it, and will probably do that still when it’s necessary. But he’s done, really. He’s outgrown it – and I’m so proud of him and so happy that I was able to nurse him for as long as he wanted it.

That being said – if this next baby wants to wean at a year, I’m going to be delighted. This weaning process has been really difficult for me, I didn’t like being at odds with everyone about my parenting choices, and there were lots of time when I was gritting my teeth and crying with frustration. I’m grateful for Marc because he never once discouraged me from doing what I thought was best, and I know that a big part of Sam’s weaning is because Daddy is so much cooler now than Mommy is. And he’s more than willing to sit up and snuggle Sam to sleep, instead of letting me handle it – and that’s made the weaning process easier. Also have to give props to the baby – because the fact that the milk changed and gradually dried up made it a smoother transition as well. And mostly, I have to thank Sam, for teaching me so much about patience, about parenting, about mothering, and about myself – I’m enormously proud of what we’ve accomplished, and I certainly wouldn’t have chosen this path (I thought toddler nursing was weird, and never wanted to nurse longer than a year). But I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything 🙂

I think so. My family is mostly a hodge-podge of pagan and wiccan – sure, we’ve got our vaguely Catholic branches, but my immediate family (specifically my mother) all proudly self-identify as witches and are firm believers in our ability to affect change in our world. Stuff like arranging for a parking space at the mall, or making sure that it’s bright and sunny when we’ve got outdoor plans. I believe profoundly in a divine force that I can connect with – that we are created in God’s image and have an immediate and personal relationship with.

That being said… there’s a big family party this weekend at my aunt’s house, and while I love my family – I’M TIRED. The past couple of weekends (and weeks) have been non-stop running, running, running and I’m just exhausted. I need a day to just… be. To stay in bed and read for a while, catch up on laundry, actually have a conversation (or two) with my husband… and I so wanted to reschedule the party until after Christmas. But I was outvoted, so was going to drag myself up there tomorrow (it’s an hour and a half away), even though I REALLY REALLY wanted to stay home.

Lo and behold – we are about to get slammed with 8-16 inches of snow. Now I think I’m magic.

Had our first Hanukkah party last night. For the kids’ friends – we let each one invite a buddy, and had some of the parents as well. It was chaotic and loud and fun. I threatened several times (during prep) to never do it again (as children were swinging from the chandelier and screaming with joy), but I think we’ll probably make it an annual event.

Going out shopping again today – my last time, I hope. Annie is taking the cherubs and we’re going to go out for lunch, pick up something awesome for Sam, get stuff for Becky/Greg, stocking stuffers for the kids, etc.